Fortnum & Mason sales rise, store struggles to attract staff post-Brexit vote

High-end UK retailer Fortnum & Mason has reported rising sales from tourists and local shoppers as its Piccadilly, London store continues to be a major shopping destination.


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Sales in the year to the end of July rose 14% to £113 million while pre-tax profit surged an even better 23% to £7.6 million. CEO Ewan Venters said turnover had doubled in the past five years and that the company is "infinitely more profitable” now.

He also said the business remains "an important national institution ... and it is clear that the British public has fallen in love again with Fortnum & Mason.”

The 310 year-old business, which sells foods, gifts, perfumes and fashion accessories, is owned by the Weston family, which also controls Selfridges, Holt Renfrew and Primark’s parent company.

While Fortnum is a tourist magnet, some 60 of its customer base its still UK-based, the company said, adding that the average transaction value in the last year was £33.

While more than half of the company’s sales come from its Piccadilly store, e-tail is growing and now accounts for 18% of turnover, up 17% year-on-year. E-tail could make up 30% of sales in the next few years as the business starts a three-year program to boost its digital capacity.

Meanwhile Venters also said that the Brexit vote has damaged Britain as a brand given the uncertainty around the EU exit process and called on the government to act.

He called for it to “show leadership and that includes being transparent with the British public about what we are really getting into, as there is going to be an emergence of information that should be debated again at a national level”.

He also said that the business has struggled to find staff since the vote with 60% of its employees coming from EU countries. The company has found it hard recruiting the 300 extra seasonal staff it takes on at this time of year, which is no surprise given hat official data the week showed immigration to the Uk from EU countries has plummeted.

Venters said that the fall in the value of the pound meant that money sent back to European countries was worth less while anti-migrant rhetoric had created a less welcoming environment.

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